Spring has arrived in Milwaukee, or at least it has officially begun according to the calendar. You can see buds popping up all over, as long as you have warm layers and a slicker on for it is raining and raining and raining some more. Actually, today it is flurrying! I know, I know, spring equals precipitation, right? In our household, it also currently involves taking care of sick kids. It began with sniffly noses and sore throats in my girls. No biggie – I could handle this. Then last Monday, I was woken up early by my son for some snuggling. This is not too unusual, especially since we just swapped the older two children’s toddler beds for twin beds, and they are still adjusting. Right after Lincoln whispered, “Mama…I love you,” he vomited, all over himself and his bed. Oh brother.
Lincoln proceeded to be sick all day, and then after that ended, he spiked a fever that lasted throughout the night. It is now Friday afternoon and Lincoln is healing, though he is still not 100%. The house is quiet for the moment since the kids are napping, so I thought I’d attempt my blog post for the month.
It seems Lincoln is getting well just in time for his older sister to get sick. Ellia woke up feverish this morning, has been lying on the couch all day and has yet to eat anything. Ellia is a highly sensitive child and had a very hard time with Lincoln being sick on Monday. She could not be near him when he needed to throw up. So, it is not surprising me that she has not thrown up yet. Somehow she seems to will herself not to do it.
Like you, I don’t enjoy my kids getting sick or seeing them suffer. But something I’ve learned through this wild ride of parenthood–something that I’m slowly learning–is that we need to allow our children to suffer. Suffering is a part of life. It isn’t fun, it can be painfully hard sometimes, but we all suffer and we all need to learn to allow the suffering to happen and then let it go again to find those moments of peace and happiness.
As mothers, we want to save our children from the pains of this world and, in many ways, we need to provide them this shelter. Especially as young children, they need to learn the world is safe and loving. But the “normal” sufferings of sicknesses, falls, heartache from not getting one’s way or not knowing quite yet how to conquer a developmental challenge (e.g. climbing up a small rock climbing wall on a playset or climbing a tree) are ones we need to let our kids endure. We need to set them up for success by creating an environment in which they can thrive, but then we need to sit back and let them struggle, fail, and conquer.
All week long, we’ve been doing our best to make their environment nurturing and healing. We are giving the children lots of liquids, a bland sort of diet, allowing them to decide when they can eat the bland foods we offer and how much – so that they can learn to trust their bodies, all while we push liquids needed for energy to kick the “sick bugs” out. We are giving them elderberry and probiotics. And we are reminding them that their bodies can let go of the sick bugs and get well again, trying to teach them that their bodies and minds know how to do this.
Another thing I’ve learned recently is that getting sick happens for many reasons. Of course there is the medical explanation that the children caught this bug by swapping germs with a sick child. What I’m referring to is that having sick children is a reminder to me and to my family to slow down again. For the most part, I have done a great job learning this lesson this time around. There was one day, though, that I didn’t do very well. Not getting any sleep for about 5 nights straight and then having to take care of 4 children (2 of whom are sick) does not equal a very stable and healthy caregiver! But we got through that day, we survived, I apologized, and we moved on. Today, I woke up in a decent mood and felt ready to start my day of outings in the morning since we were all better. Then I touched my eldest’s forehead and realized that wasn’t going to happen for she had woken up with a fever.
At first, I was mad and selfishly started to think about the plans I have for the weekend that likely might not happen as I had hoped. But knowing how awful that one day this week was when I resisted, I let it go. I can’t predict the future…we might all be in good health again tomorrow morning or we might all be sick. Either way, we’ll survive, we’ll get through it and move on. But fixating on whether we’ll be sick tomorrow doesn’t help me make the most of today. So I let it go. I acknowledged that all we have–and all the kids are even cognizant of–is this moment.
So here’s my advice for taking care of the family when sick bugs invade: lie on the couch and snuggle your sick kid; color for hours with your wee ones; let the dishes stack up until you have a moment later to quickly wash them; allow the rhythms to step aside for the day, with the knowledge that when all are well again, you’ll get back on track. Slow down, enjoy the moments you can, and remember that the majority of the time, you and your family are blessed with amazing health and happiness. Here in Wisconsin, also remember that though we can’t see that beautiful sun and it doesn’t feel a bit like spring, the sun is still there hiding behind the clouds. It will appear again soon and we’ll all go out and play!
Mara Spiropoulos is the blog coordinator and parent voice for the LifeWays North America blog. She is a recent graduate of the LifeWays training program, resides in Milwaukee, WI, and is a full-time mother to 3 young children. Mara enjoys spending time in nature, reading and researching natural parenting and living, and crafting. She would love to hear from anyone willing to be a guest writer. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.